Because physical wounds heal

Got a real nice big four accountancy story for you guys. A buddy who is still there told me of an initiative to raise morale. Each team member in an audit department gets put on a board and has to stick a smiley or sad face on their space every day of the week.

This was so management and partners can see who is unhappy on the jobs at a glance. For transparency. But middle managers or partners don’t want to be caught destroying the lives of staff,  so anyone that’s not a happy face gets a talking to.

After a week or two, nothing but happy faces on the board. Managers and partners see reports that morale has improved empirically – the board says so! While the staff die inside as they put 5 smiley faces in a row.


Got an internet pal into big 4  – he’s doing his CPA now. He’s worried after all my horror stories. At least he’s on guard for the isolation and indoctrination techniques.  I remember when I started I was nearly teetotal. By the end, I was taking valium every day, drinking a bottle of whiskey a week, jacking off in work and fighting the urge to steer into oncoming traffic… on a bicycle. He’ll be fine.

The real thing now is trying to write better. Woman has an Masters in literature and is an editor/publisher, so she is well placed to advise on writing. Might be posting up some pieces and critical reflection.

Stuff to work on:

  • Dialogue between people
  • Moving away from genre fiction as a crutch
  • Convey emotion – read “The Fault in our Stars”
  • Brevity – evoke and don’t describe every action
  • “he said” “she said” are perfectly fine to avoid confusing your reader. Plenty of opportunity in dialogue to give further detail about interactions.


He held her from behind beside the canal rail. The smell of leather and cigarettes crushing against her. The leaden sky reflected in the water.

“I’m not ready for this” she said.

The man slid his hand from her waist to her thigh, his callouses catching in her tights.

“It’s not anything serious. Just one week away. Some winter sun. The beach.” he said. She watched the currents in the water. Feeling the slow circular rub of his hands.

“Don’t worry, baby. I can pay for it. Just one week. We could do with a break.”

She dragged his hand back to her waist.

“We’ve had this conversation before. And my feelings haven’t changed. You swore you wouldn’t. You swore to me you wouldn’t. And you did. I can’t forgive that.”

The man embraced her tighter. She felt the cold of his fingers chisel under her jacket to her bare skin. The man rested his chin on her nape, leaning into her ear:

“That was in the past. Just one. And you’re still here. You still love me. And you’re the one I always wanted. I gave you my email passwords. You saw every message. There are no secrets between us now. Can you forgive me?” His hands snaked towards her breasts while he spoke.

A couple pushing a pram on the opposite side looked in their direction.

“Not in public” she said, pulling away from him. Her voice rose:

“I won’t keep your secrets anymore. I knew you were cheating on your wife when we met, but I thought you would end it and stay with me. And now I’m the fool. Waiting to play house with a grown man. Nothing good can come of this. Not for you. Not for her. Not for me.”

She turned into his grasp, breaking his hold.

“ I will no longer be part of this.”

She turned and walked up the bank bridge. Breathe, she told herself.  She breathed non-stop, like her first marathon.

She reached the top of the hill. She did not look back.


8 thoughts on “Because physical wounds heal

  1. “While the staff die inside as they put 5 smiley faces in a row.”
    “That was in the past. Just one. And you’re still here. You still love me. And you’re the one I always wanted. I gave you my email passwords. You saw every message. There are no secrets between us now. Can you forgive me?”
    Did this too, too many feels. The writing is getting better! Keep them coming.

  2. When I was in Big 4, every couple of weeks or so HQ would create these idiotic online courses we had to complete and that were supposed to make us feel better and raise morale.

    “How to Prioritize Better”, “Workplace Stress Management”, “How to Offer Constructive Feedback”, “Work-Life Balance”, etc. Well-written narrative and examples, professionally put together presentation, even an audio version if you didn’t want to read the text. Someone was putting a lot of effort and man-hours into creating these. Each course was about 45-90 minutes long and had a completion deadline.

    We were so overworked no one had time to actually read through all this bullshit and click through to the end. As the deadline got nearer, HQ could see who had or hadn’t completed the course and would start hounding the regional offices to get their staff in line. The partners would then have a fit and accuse the managers/staff of slacking, so we’d all end up working longer hours just to get these ‘wellness’ courses done. Good times.

    Gotta love Big 4. But really, corporate work isn’t all that bad as long as you remain objective and don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

    Have you thought about sending your work to a publisher for feedback?

    1. I thought it was just the Army. “Everyone must complete the Boating Safety Course and the Sexual Harassment Awareness Course NLT 1600 today. This is a Department of the Army requirement.”
      I remember doing these courses for everyone in my squad because I could click through the fastest and pass the eight question test at the end. My favorite was the one on Computer Security: “Everybody give CPL Coach their usernames and passwords so he can do the test on safe computing pfactices for you.

      1. “Everybody give CPL Coach their usernames and passwords so he can do the test on safe computing practices for you.”

        I love that. Did they understand the irony or did they just not care?

      2. They did not understand the irony. The Army and computers are a terrible mix: Bradley Manning, a disgruntled transvestite given unlimited access to classified materials. Thumb drive viruses infecting vital networks in war zones because bored officers swap porn & play games. Passwords on post-its, left on computers bc they make you change every 30 days and use 15 characters including punctuation marks. This is just stuff from the headlines.

        From personal experience: I was classified as Hispanic for several years because of an error at the recruiter, but no one could change it because your race is not a data field that should ever change. Also, picture this: a battalion (500 guys) and the computer systems, which even ca. 2008, even in the infantry are prevalent and crucial. The guy in charge is an officer with no experience with computers or radios. Under him is a sergeant first class who knows a good deal about radios, nothing about computers, and is kind of slow. Under him are some sergeants who can do basic tech support. The one guy who is a true network professional, who can fix things when they go wrong – he’s a private. Oh wait the targeting system is down. Private Snuffy is busy. Busy? Yes, getting yelled at, getting made to do pushups, getting summoned to the colonel’s office to fix his printer. Whereabouts unknown. Can we call brigade? Their computer guys are on a road march? Snuffy’s on leave? Til when? Does anybody know anything? Bad news, snuffy just transferred units. There will be no replacement. Sergeant Smith will fill in. He used to be a cook. It’s fine.

        I’m sure things have improved in the last seven years and this comment is an irrelevant rant now.

    1. Her big criticism is that the story reads like non-fiction. All I read for 5 years was non-fiction. And it shows.

      I know more about the infrastructure, ecology and politics of the setting, but almost nothing about the characters and their trajectory. Gotta read more fiction if my characters are going to be enjoyed.

      Plus I make lots of rookie mistakes like “Unrealised Gains turned in his chair, made to stand, stood and walked to the table …” instead of “Unrealised Gains rose from his chair and walked to the table”. This is boring prose and time-consuming to write. Could take me another year to get 25k words done at that rate.

      Much to be said for style and brevity.

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